zcat_abroad: (Default)
It's 6:30, and though I don't have to get up for another 2 hours (zcc time), I can't sleep. These last few days have gone incredibly quickly. Marking was finally finished on Sunday morning, and all the marks handed in on Monday. We had two banquets, on Monday with the English department, and on Tuesday with the president of the college, who seems like a nice chap. Students have been visiting throughout the day and into the evening, some coming back to say goodbye repeatedly. We have been given some ghastly going away presents, that we have then had to try and hide, and give away to other people who don't know the people who gave them to us. This has been made more awkward by the two groups suddenly being in the same room together, as they've come to say good-bye again!

Our only regret on leaving China is leaving the people. We will not miss the food, the pollution, the view, the kitchen (have I ever mentioned how much I hate the kitchen?), or the animals (except maybe the donkey carts - I must get a photo of the donkey carts!). But the people are really special, and it's even hard to say good-bye to the lady at the campus supermarket, or the lady downstairs. I only regret not learning Chinese because it meant I could not talk to her. I managed to tell her that, yesterday, thanks to students who were over.

The students, and the teachers. Dean Ba, Helen, Cathy, Mr Guo, Dee, and various other teachers whose names I can't remember, but whom I've talked with. All great people. Ban TianTian, who was one of the first students to visit us, and who helped make our life here much easier. Jack and Ma Yan, Jack was an old friend from our first term, and his girlfriend (who we never saw enough of, but who suits him down to the ground!). Evil Lily, and Good Lily, and Emily and Mandy (and her boyfriend, who I know as Tybalt), Amanda, Helen, and hundreds of others...

And the cast of Romeo and Juliet, who are all incredibly special. I have lots of photos to remember them by, from both the play, and the day after, when it snowed for the second time, and we took lots of photos.

The sad thing is that many of the people's names and faces will fade. We'll look at the photos and say, "oh him, I remember him, he was that guy from..." but we won't remember the name. Must try and attach notes to the digital photos, to aid failing memories. Of course there are some who we won't forget. Ban TianTian, Jack, Oliver, Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio, Nurse, Lady C, Benvolio, Good Lily...

However, the point of all this is that it is now time for a rousing rendition of [livejournal.com profile] zcat_abroad's theme tune, this time with slightly altered lyrics. Don't think I've ever been so happy to leave a place, not even India the last time.

*singing loudly, and slightly flat, as I do*

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standing here outside my door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn
The taxi's waiting, he's blowing his horn
I'm ready, I'm so happy I could die.

I'm leaving on the next plane
I know I won't be back again,
And IIII'm so glaaad to go!
(all together now!) So kiss me and smile for me
Don't bother to wait here for me,
Hold me, and then let me go awaaaaay!
'Cos I'm leeeeaving on the next plane
dah dah dadah da da da da da...


(note: probably the John Denver version that's playing in my head - I didn't know Jewel had done a cover, and it's been sung by Frank Sinatra. It's been my theme tune since I was about 12)
zcat_abroad: (Default)
This in response to a the question: Given that pollution in China kills tens of millions of people, and costs 7 to 10% of the GDP every year, what should be done about it?
*********************

As everyone known, China is one of the largest country in the world. There are a lot of people in china. Everyone think China is a very strong country, and the people in this country are much richer than the other people who lives in some other country. That's right. But the pollution in china is not little.

In China, the pollution kills about tens of millions of people every year. For example, There are a lot of people in some places, who is ill or dead. Because they drink unclear water. The water is polluted by some people. So the other people who drink it are ill, and some of them are dead. So something we eat is very easy to be polluted. But most of us don't know about it. Some people will pollution them for money.

The pollution in China is very serious. But most of us don't know about it. they think the China is large and rich. If this place is be polluted, they can come to another place to live. The most important thing is the money which they cat owe. So the pollution in china is more and more serious.

But new, people know about it. They don't pollute and stop other people polluting. So I belive the pollution in china will become less and less.

**********************

Anyone wonder why I'm going crazy? This is a good one. I don't think I could type some of the bad ones. In a page and a half, some have managed over 75 mistakes!!
zcat_abroad: (Default)
More about the tsunami and my friends. This from a Yahoo!chat with my Dad.

Characters in the play
- Etim paraplegic man from Koh Sirae (the village hardest hit).
- Jundee his wife.
- Dumin another paraplegic man from KS (fishermen, got diver's bends).
- AhLin Christian leader from Rawai (the village that escaped).
- Miaow his daughter
- computer what are fishermen doing with a computer? working on Bible translation.

Dad : I've jut been talking to Jundee - Etim was out at the sea front talking to some people. I asked her how they escaped - he went in his tricycle, being pushed by a friend!! Dumin had someone take him in a pickup. Seems the computer and everything is ruined, along with the front half of their house.

me: They must have had some sort of warning?

Dad : AhLin was at K.S. for Sunday meeting and Miaow rang him on his cell phone when the wave hit Rawai. He alerted K.S. and that's how they were saved.

me: WoW! That gives me shivers!

---------
Now, I know that someone else probably would have rang Koh Sirae from Rawai - the two villages have a lot of families in common, being the only two tribal (Urak Lawoi - People of the Sea) villages on the island. But Dumin's house, where the Sunday meetings are had, is right in the center of the village.

God's watching over these people. Which then seems awfully cold, saying that God wasn't watching over others. I don't know, and I know that there are many who might read this who think I'm seeing things that aren't there. I just know that Dumin and Etim have beaten death so many times, and though they can no longer work, they are well respected in the village. AhLin is close to being the leader of the village at Rawai, as well as the leader of the church there.

So I'm taking this opportunity to thank God, publicly.

And more thanks for keeping Mening's house safe. That's my home, the only one that has not moved over my 25++ years. (Okay, it's 27, I think).
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So Christmas in a strange country has passed, and it almost managed to feel like Christmas. Mostly by having a large amount of good food, and eating all day. And having friends instead of family, but still feeling like they were family.

Present were: [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious, Joanna the French English teacher, Earl the American English teacher, and moi. Absent was: Sharon the Filipino English teacher.

Food eaten: Crunchy fried chicken, chicken sautéed with red wine and butter, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes tossed with butter and oregano, salad, sautéed carrots, cauliflower cheese, devilled eggs, fruit salad, and a small Christmas cake, pkf (=per kind favour) zcatcurious’ parents.

The food has to have honourable mention, due to us all feeling so happy about it. It was wonderful, as zcatcurious pointed out, to have a table laden with dishes all of which you wanted to eat from, and none of which were going to give you food-poisoning. All were prepared by Earl, zcatcurious, and me, and so were cleanly done (Joanna provided the red wine, from France, which made my chicken dish soooo good). There was no trace of soy sauce in any of the dishes, and all meat was definitely named, and not from some strange part of an animal not to be mentioned in polite society. We stuffed ourselves for lunch, and then came back to it later, once the first round had settled. (zcatcurious wishes it to be known that he had 4 platefuls, not including the fruit salad)

The rest of the day was taken up with watching movies – not a traditional Christmas activity by my standards, but what else was one (or 4) to do, when the beach is so far away, the outside air temperature at freezing, and there not enough snow to make snow men? We watched Troy (which was entertaining, and definitely 100% better than Helen of Troy, which zcc and I had tried to watch earlier in the week), and then National Treasure, which was a patriotic American, Hardy-boy’s version of Foucault’s Pendulum.

Presents were had, such small things as one hoped would not weigh down baggage when friends moved on. My present to zcc, apart from 4 packets of Skittles (he’s only found 1 so far), was a ticket to Korea, while his to me was a ticket from Korea to Auckland. We also got a nice carved ‘Fu’ in wood, which we can’t bring back to NZ, a marble fan with a poem written on it, a beautiful hair-clip (for me) and black woollen gloves for zcc, and an old couple made of china, who sit on top of the TV and nod to each other. For some strange reason zcc and I seem to inspire people with the desire to buy cute old couples for us.

And now, having had two days off, it's back to R&J. It's going to be presented on Wednesday, and we have yet to practice with all the props. Not feeling too terribly hopeful, but at least no-one will know when the lines get stuffed up.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
It snowed last night. Not very much, and not for very long, but it snowed. This caused a bit of a flurry and a large interuption in the practice of R&J Act4&5, but then it was back to business.

Yes, the play is coming along. There were minor problems at the beginning, when it looked like we were going to have to do Romeo & Juliet without either of the title characters, but all that is now solved. Romeo is now being played by Benvolio, Benvolio by Balthasar, and Balthasar by Peter (who I have now written out of the play). And Juliet got over her nerves, and is working on acting. Problems now faced are things like costuming and props, and how much money is to be spent on them. Turns out they want a really professional production, but with no money spent, 'cos there aren't going to be any tickets sold. Seems a bit strange to us capitalists, but we have been promised some money now.

When I say 'we', I am, of course, not including [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious (who is officially *not* helping) but rather Sharon, the Philippina teacher, and myself. Joanna, the French teacher, is going to help with the art work, I think (note to self: tell J she's helping with art), and [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious is proving very useful in advising me what to do next, while carefully not helping. I think the play, in it's new stir-fry version, will end up being about an hour long.

In other news, we (this one's [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious and I) gave the students a test this last week. It was the most disheartening thing I've done. After writing on the board "No copying" (we had to write that!?!), there were still at least 2 pairs in every class caught cheating during the exam (and got 0 straight away), and more found in the marking. The worst example was of students who wrote the correct answer, checked their partner's, and then crossed out their answer and filled in what their partner had written, complete with spelling mistakes. The stupidity of it is appalling! And while marking tests is no fun, it's made even worse when you realise that the wrong answers you have now are identical to the ones you just marked, and the question of who copied off whom is impossible to answer.

So, we have had a rather grumpy week of it.

Still no new news on the job front - the guy with the job in Pusan has not officially been requested to find people for there, and while Korea looks better than here, it does not look much better. We would love to be coming home next year, but the job market in NZ is no better, and the NZ dollar is still ridiculously strong. Please inform Dr. Cullen to do something about this.

Well, guess I'd better go and give the next class their marks from the test. I already yelled at this class, so I don't have to today. Sick and tired of being angry, and depressed. Not sure if we've made any difference in the majority of the students. But there are the brighter sparks, and I think R&J is going to be great, if we can stop Capulet laughing when he's trying to be all weepy over Juliet's death.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
so I'll murder one of the Bard's other plays. More on that later.

Well, it's been a while since I last updated - because my computer time was severely eaten into. Following the hoopla, and other disturbing things;
(we were ordered by the Powers-that-be to sing, we protested,
they insisted, we sang (Amazing Grace - more as a protest than
anything else), the world did not collapse in on us, more's
the pity, 'cos now our students keep asking us to sing!)

we decided to buy a DVD player so as to watch all the BUFFY we had bought while on holiday. This proved to be a good way to wind down after more frustrations in and around the classroom. However, it also means that we watched 2 and 1/2 seasons in about 3 weeks. Which led to there not being much time on the computer.

And my next project shall also disturb my few hours of free time(and has already). I and one other foreign teacher here, have determined to stage a Shakespeare play, using members of the English department. This we will do together with [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious (if I can get him to forgive me for wearing his coat, again, now), and in spite of, once again, the helpful (?!?) ministrations of our local, pet demon, and other things. Already there has been a great mix-up, and we haven't even begun auditions yet!! They start today, and we have at least 80 people who have written their names down. I will scare some off, by emphasising hard work and commitment. Also plan to rope many in to work on things like sets, props, and lighting.

In the mean time, I have been severely editing the great Bard's most famous tradgedy, in the hopes of making is short enough to be possible. Rather afraid that at some time a Power will show up and say it has to be 5 minutes long. I think we'll manage to make it about an hour. Yes, we are cutting some of the classic lines, but we're working on preserving the story, and ensuring the students understand it. Gave them about 18 lines from the Friar's speech to Romeo, once he's killed Tybalt, to learn. Now have to decide whether I go through and change thou, thee and thy, or if we just teach the whole English department the meanings. Not sure which will be quicker, but as far as learning English goes, it's better for them to know the meaning.

So still haven't re-written my Great China Trip. Will do so, but might back-date it, so if you're interested, look for it about a week ago.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
No, this is not the story of our trip round China - which I have been meaning to write for over a week now. Slightly hindered by the fact that I did write, and sent it to my family, and tried to 'copy and paste' it here. I then did some editing, trying to take up less space, and when I hit enter, it all vanished. I have been waiting for a week for one of my family to reply to my story (as they usually leave the thing they're replying to on the end), so I could repost it. Family have, once again, been fired.

This story is that of the week following our return to the brownish pastures of ZaoZhuang. It was going to be a bad week anyway, as we were going to have to work for 8 days in a row. It got worse when the equipment in the AV labs started failing left, right and centre. Most of this has been recorded by [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious. I just want to add a small rant of frustration, anger and disgust. If you don't mind. Hopefully will stop some of it ending up on [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious's head.

We ran into our pet demon this evening, on our way home from town, on what feels like the first day off in over 2 weeks (the great China trip was not a holiday!). She informed us that, having seen our presentation yesterday, the Demons-that-be have decided it is not good enough. We have to say nice things about the school, not just China. (We chose to talk about our Chinese experiance in general so as to have something positive to talk about!) We also have to be funny, so that people laugh. We also have to speak a sentence in Chinese, which our poor pet demon, caught between the Powers and us not-terribly-impressed-with-it-all foreign teachers, has composed and will tutor us in.

So she, and one of the Powers, is coming round sometime tomorrow to help us write our new speeches to flatter the Power's already over-inflated egos. On a day when I am already giving an extra class, because I couldn't give it last week, because the machines (infernal) refused to work. And I am trying to help a student who is majoring in English, who tries really hard to understand and be involved in class, and is only hindered by the fact that he cannot speak a word of the language, (other than "Thank-you"). My only consolation is that by Thursday, this bit of madness (the presentation) will be all over. What will they devise to plague us with next?

The week from Hell was capped by the "Friday from a special Hell reserved for teachers who are just trying to do their job". As has been recorded elsewhere, it started with a class where the DVD player just plain didn't work. It had worked fine the last time I had used it, about 2 weeks before. Nobody had thought to tell me that it was no longer functioning. I guess I was too tired, 'cos after ranting a bit, and swearing, I ended up crying in the Dean's office. I already had about 2 classes that needed extra extra catch up, due to faulty material. I'm trying to teach here, but noone takes any care of the equipment, and those who would like to do something about up-dating the ancient machines are hampered by the fact that they can't get any money from the other group who run things.

Rather embarassed about having broken down. Did better when my second class of the day turned out to have been relegated from the one lab that did work, to one that I had already proved earlier in the week was caput. Managed by sitting on my hands, saying nasty things beneath my breath, and generally deciding it was no longer my problem. Then the guy who had taken over the one working lab managed to screw that up too, and we spent about an hour after my third class ar 8:00pm(actually my first class on a Friday)trying to get a picture that could be recognised.

Have really had enough here. Poor [livejournal.com profile] zcatcurious has been amazing in putting up with my (by now extremely bad) temper. He deserves a medal. I'll have to make one.

*turns imagination to how to reward very worthy husband - turns out to be remarkably easy - good dinner, works every time - heh, bet you didn't see that coming!*
zcat_abroad: (palm)
Wow! Time flies when you're having fun. Or teaching. Whichever it is.

So, we've managed to finish one full week of teaching all classes, and now it's time for holidays, again. These are the top secret, National October holidays, which no-one knew the dates of until this week.

On Wednesday, provided we manage to buy tickets, we will board a train in the evening, and arrive in Beijing on Thursday. There we will join the otherhalf's parents to romp through China in one week: Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou. And back to work the next Friday.

However, the tickets could prove tricky. Although there is a place in town that allegedly sells train tickets, they don't sell them to actual people (i.e., we've not heard of anyone we know purchasing tickets there). To make matters worse, it's a National Holiday, which means that half the population of China will be on the move. And unless you know someone in power at the railway station, there's no point in going there to buy tickets. It all comes down now to the power of guanxi.

So who knows what will happen.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Too often, in fact.

I've just spent about an hour writing to one of my friends, who I don't write to often enough. I find it easier writing to the vague air that is LJ than to real people whom I wish to communicate with.

(Yes, I'm aware that *most* of you out there in LJ-land are real people!)

Then, having finally written a long, newsy and interesting email, I pressed 'send'. One does. It's the traditional way of sending something. Or so I thought.

STUPID ME!! One does not press 'send' when dealing with Yahoo. First one must select all the text one is desirious of sending, press CTRL C, and then 'send'. That way, if it's decided to play 'not there', Yahoo won't have erased all your hard work.

Maybe I'm maligning Yahoo, but it's the only email server I've lost things with - and it's great in almost every other way.

But now I have to try and write another nice newsy email, and it's never as good as the first. I just want to kick and scream!!!

*kick*
*scream*

Right. That's that over and done with. Now I'll take my own advice, and write in Word, and cut and paste.

*makes note in notebook to do this everytime. Then makes note on hand to read note in notebook*
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and the floods came up (all those with a Sunday School education, sing along!)

Having been a pleasant temperature for the last 2 weeks, it finally decided to rain. And rain, and rain. (You get the picture.) I like rain, when I'm at home and can appreciate it from a distance. However, getting up on the first rainy morning for a while, leaving my other half warmly curled on the bed, to trudge through ankle-deep puddles, to meet a new class, is not fun.

However, two hours later I got to go home, get changed, put on a jumper, and curl up with a hot cup of sweet tea and the computer. So it's not all bad.

Was going to write a really grumpy post on Sunday, about how they've changed all my classes without telling me, but then at about 8:30 that night the Foreign Affairs officer came round, with my new time-table. Yeah, I knew about it ahead of time, but I was really wanting to know it officially. Now I do. I have 4 new classes, all Oral. Three of them are actually the degree classes, and it's been a joy to teach them. Most of these students are studying English because they actually like it, rather than because they think it will be useful, or their parents told them to. And it makes such a difference in their attitude. Or it has so far.

However, it means that I've lost some of my AV classes, which is not so good.

Otherwise, life continues as normal. Nothing exciting.

One Week

Sep. 8th, 2004 08:35 am
zcat_abroad: (palm)
Right, we've been 'home' for one week, and this is the first time I get to update. Two things are to blame - my timing, and the internet connection, and they work off each other. I tend to want to write in the evening, which is when everyone else on campus is on the computer, thus making it incredibly slow, and sometimes impossible, to reach LJ - or Yahoo. In fact I'm left browsing through the Herald, which is the only way I can convince myself that NZ hasn't fallen off the edge of the world.

Communication
I've finally discovered IM, thanks to Yahoo. Yeah, I know it's been around for ages, but I'd never got into it, until one day in Jinan, I was emailing Dad, and he was replying, and it was working like text messaging and then *he* suggested I try Messenger. And it worked like a charm. The only problem was - it was all in Chinese, except for the bit I was typing. So I think I snubbed Debxena by accident, because something popped up with her name on, I pressed a button at random (no, actually I was trying to make a guess as to which button would add her to my friends list) and she disappeared. I've felt bad ever since, but now I've made a public confession, perhaps everything will be better.

New term, new classes
Teaching this term has two parts - the fun and the down-right boring. The fun is AV - listening while watching videos (or, as is more often the case, VCDs and DVDs). However, being responsible teachers, Greg and I are NOT going to just sit down and watch a movie every week. (Grrrr Arrrgghhh to responsibility!). No, nor are we going to teach Buffy - having decided that the vocab is too high, not always useful (how often, outside of discussing Buffy, does one talk about vampires, werwolves, demons, and dusting people? unless you're a member of thehorde?)and the grammar is just plain wrong - being not only American (now to see if anyone American is reading this), but also of the Buffy-verse. We are, however, going to show one of my other favourite movies, in little bits. 10 minute segments of 10 Things I Hate About You, with lots of work on vocab on both sides of it. Guess I should start preparing the lesson. When I have finally finished here.

The down-right boring part of teaching is writing. How do you teach writing to a class of 40? If you make them all write something, you have 40 things to mark, times 5 classes. That's (correct me if I'm wrong - there is a reason I teach English) 200 pieces of writing. I could underline all the mistakes, and get them to correct themselves, but then I'd have to check again, to make sure they got the point.
I like writing (more below), but I'm not that strong on grammar, and that's mainly what these students need. The "I don't know why that's wrong, but it is, it should be this" argument doesn't go down so well with university students, many of whom are planning to become teachers themselves one day.

On the subject of writing.
I have finally managed to get a start on the story that has been simmering in my brain for the past year or so. I had been putting it off, on the grounds that I needed to do more research, that I didn't know enough about the time and place. It's a historical novel, you see, and set a lot earlier than the books I normally read. I have read a few more set in a similar time, but am determined to get my facts straight, not rely on what I've read in stories. And at the moment it's rather hard to get my paws on books about medieval England and France. The internet is my only hope - there must be something I can find in here. So Wednesday mornings, being the time I don't have a class, while Greg does, will be devoted to research and writing.

Then there is also my work for my PhD. I won't officially start it until 2006, but I already have the document I'm going to be working on, and have started transcribing it. I just have to hope that between now and then, noone else starts to edit the same manuscript. It's MINE! As I'm planning to have kids while doing my PhD, the more I can get done first, the better.

So , having spent a long time here, I'd better go and do some work before the other half gets back.

Zaozhuang

Sep. 3rd, 2004 06:16 pm
zcat_abroad: (Default)
has greatly improved after seven weeks in Jinan. It's nice to come back to a small town, to see faces you recognise, and to attempt to communicate with people who you've tried to talk to before.

And, after all zcatcurious's ranting, the computer is mostly up and running. Still not sure if we can play DVDs. Surely it should be possible if the computer has a cd drive? I don't know - all too technical for me.

However, having a computer in the house means that I (we?) will be able to update our journal more often, and keep in closer touch with friends and family. It doesn't excuse me from writing individual emails, though.

Hmmpph.

There are other things I want to do with the computer, but I have been told I have to share it. He's breathing down my neck. Okay, okay! Your turn now.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
One of the problems of being (kind of) multi-lingual is that, at some point, the sounds of the words over-lap. This was quickly reached in China, as there are limited sounds. It's not often that it makes sense, but here in Jinan, where they use a slightly different dialect, I've come across some interesting things.

One of the best is that the slang term here for money is 'kwai'. This just happens to be the Thai word for 'buffalo', and they even (as far as my tone-deaf self can figure) have the same tone! So when I ask for the price of something, it feels as if I'm asking how many buffaloes. And the answer can make your head swim. Three hundred buffaloes seems to be a bit pricy for a (admittedly beautiful) dress.

The number 8 in Chinese means 'mad' in Thai (as in crazy) - so phone numbers can sound very strange.

Then, to mess up my poor swirling head even futher - one of the teachers here is Indonesian, and today she was asking how come I could speak it, and how much. Well, the answer is not a heck of a lot any more. In fact, Indonesian was my lowest mark in University - but not having had to use it, I hadn't been thinking too much about Urak Lawoi. Now, I have about 4 languages all confused in my head, none of which I can claim to speak fluently anymore, and I'm not too sure how the English is surviving in the mess.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Right, this is a probably going to be long, as I know I've been very lax in keeping updated. I blame it on the dodgy power supply, which has managed to kill a few emails.

Following my great success as an onscreen actor, Greg is next. He thought he had escaped, but next Saturday he’s moonlighting as an American designer (anyone ever heard of G-Free?) here to launch this season’s fashion. And he has to do his live! However, he also has to watch a fashion show, give flowers to the top model, etc. I promise to get pictures!

Last Wednesday, a week ago, was the birthday of one of the other teachers, so her flatmate created a great dinner, in the form of spaghetti Bolognese. You may not think that sounds too exciting, but we hadn’t had anything like it for months! And garlic bread, and salad, and other amazing, Western foods. It was a good time, but as usual we left early, as we have been rather sleep deprived of late, thanks to noisy neighbours.

We spent most of last Saturday at home, until the noise of the military training going on in the school outside threatened to drive me insane. Why is it that they can not count beyond 4? So we headed to one of the underground shopping areas – of which there are many in this strange city. Unfortunately, possibly because of reaction to the noise of counting, I didn’t cope with the crowd well, and felt rather freaked out by the numbers of people. You don’t always notice it, but sometimes it is obvious that there are 6 million people in this city. So we escaped to the park above the shops, and sat by the fountain (not going at the time), counted the number of people who fell in (4), and watched the old men fly kites. Actually, watching people fall in the fountain was very fun. Mostly it was children, so their parents would strip them off, wring the clothes out and place them on the black granite surround, which was incredibly hot and so soon dried them off. However, one young lass, possibly late teens-early twenties, had waded into the pool for a photo, and then slipped and fell over. We think her boyfriend must have suggested she do what the kids were doing, judging by the speed and force with which she slapped him!

We had dinner with Lee that night. She’s one of the Australian teachers here, from Tassie, and quite nice. She’s also one of the many Christians we’ve met here in China, and not all of them foreign. We didn’t tease each other too much about being from the wrong side of the Tasman, as we’d already done that. There are about six Aussies here, and we’re the only Kiwis, so there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of insults, comments, and compliments.

It was also the night of the Asian Cup Final, which was played between Japan and China. China’s loss was not very well accepted, but we only know about riots in Beijing from overseas news sources.

On a baking hot Sunday we made our way to the museum, and found out that the terracotta warriors from Xi’an (no, not a football team) were visiting. This was a nice surprise, and means that we no longer have to go to Xi’an, which has been described as a hole (and not a nice one – definitely not sandy like Rabbit’s). The warriors were great, very clearly individuals. I found it rather mind-boggling that they should be so old – from the Qin dynasty around 221-206 BC. But then we found some pottery on the top floor that was more than 4000 years old. The Dawenkou period was described as being ‘late Stone-age’ but the pottery was beautiful.

Another really interesting exhibit was the carved stone from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220AD). It’s amazing how neat and flowing Chinese writing carved in stone can be. There were also various frescos, of animals, people and monsters. What I found fascinating was that many of the romping animal pictures very closely resembled pages from some of the Old and Middle English beastiaries. There was also one with two entwined dragons, looking for all the world like a Celtic carving. Maybe there’s room for a cross-cultural influence thesis there!

Other random things in Jinan include livid purple skies at night, as the cloud and smog layer reflect the flashing of neon signs, a singing taxi-driver this morning (I Just Called to Say I Love You), and the crowds and crowds of people on bicycles.

And I’ve figured out how to deal with beggars. Just keep some food in your bag at all times. It’s worked quite well so far. I was uncertain as to how well it would be received, but the two urchins who I gave bread to yesterday had grins on their faces, so that’s good.

Only two more Wednesdays to survive! Maybe, now that I feel kinda updated, I'll be able to write more regularly.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Event? There is no event. Just work and more work. It doesn't help that there is no sleep, either. However, being in a big city, you sometimes see some interesting things rendered into English. Like the above, being one of the things you can find on the ground floor of the Silver Plaza.

Actually, there is some event. I will soon be world famous in China, or at least Shandong. On Saturday I, with one of my collegues, took part in a commercial selling some revolutionary new medicine. All it required was for me to look like a scientific type, listen and nod, and at the end to clap. It took four hours, but at 200 yuan an hour, I'm not really complaining.

Went to the zoo yesterday, and Greg saw his first real snake, closely followed by his first touch of a snake, then having the boa drapped round his neck for a photo. I got to feed a hippo, and tried to pat it, but the mouth has very sharp looking whiskers all around it.

In other news, I have decided to fire my family. I wrote to 3 out of 5 of them last week, and then managed, between power cuts, to reply to one friend. The friend wrote back within 2 days, and, over a week later, I'm still waiting to hear from family. And they complain if I let it go longer than a week without hearing from me.

Right, gripe over, time to teach tiny tots.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Well, the road to Shaolin was long, bumpy, and uncomfortable. The bus journey was variously advertised, by people who'd been, as lasting anything from 5 to 8 hours. It ended up at 9 hours, and none of it was terribly comfortable. We left ZZ at 4:20pm, and spent most of the drive on a two lane road, with no median barrier. This meant the bus was weaving and jerking over the road, and despite the aircon and comfy seats, we were soon very tired of it. Got into Zhangzhou at about 3:00am. Fortunately we had booked a hotel room ahead of time, so we walked from the bus station - much to the disgust of the hundreds of taxi drivers waiting for the bus. But we needed to not be sitting any more!

The next morning we were woken at 6:00 by the city clock, situated on the top of a pagoda commemerating the martyrs who fought the Japanese. Well, we did want to be in the centre of town! At least it didn't chime through the night. Eventually we got up at around 11, shouldered our packs, went to the bus station and booked a bus to Dengfeng, the nearest town from this side to Shaolin. We chose a bus which went a bit later, as there was a 5 thousand-year old wall which Greg wanted to see. So then we grabbed a taxi, and found what looked like a huge bank, which ran straight and then turned a corner. Turned out the wall was tamped earth, quite a feat when you considered it was about 6 metres high, and wide enough for 3 chariots to race (cf Jericho). We scrambled up and walked along various paths - a quiet space in the centre of a bustling city of 6 million.

Then it was back on a bus - according to the guide, the ride would be 2 hours. However, we noticed, as we barrelled along the 4 lane motorway, that there were policemen under every over bridge, and about every 500 metres otherwise. Then we realised that there was no traffic coming the other way, other than polie vans. When we reached the turn-off to Dengfeng, it was pouring rain, and the bus was turned aside from it's normal route, which would, we discovered later, have gotten us to Dengfeng in 10 minutes. Instead, we followed about 100 trucks, buses and vans up what looked (and felt to bruised bottoms) like a stream bed. The old route had obviously not been maintained once the motorway was created - rocks, holes, and racing water, with the bus swerving round anyone it could pass, then ducking back in to avoid the oncoming 10 ton truck. 45 minutes later, we finally arrived in Dengfeng - the next stop for the night.

At the bus-stop we met a very friendly taxi driver, who helped us find a hotel, as both guides we were using turned out to be wrong about everything in Dengfeng. The taxi driver offered to wait around, and then take us to 'Song Yan' academy the hill, which had existed for about 1500 years. So, dumping our bags and grabbing our cameras, we got into his dodgey van, and ended up in a haven of peace and quiet. It was much more impressive than Shaolin the next day, a series of buildings up the side of a hill, with various tablets and huge stones commemorating things done thousands of years ago. The oldest stone tablet was carved about 579 AD, and allowed Greg and I to see our first example of ancient Chinese characters.
There were nice gardens, and various elderly gentlemen doing their exercises.

We found our way back into town, and wandered around the place, noting where various streets were being blocked off for food. Found a table of young people all wanting to practise their English, so we sat down for a while, and had some amazing kebab/satay things. It's quite interesting to note the number of Muslims around, and places selling halal food.

The next day we had arranged to meet our friendly taxi driver to take us to Shaolin - and again the guide books were wrong. They said it would be about 2 hours by bus, but unless you have to push the bus, it couldn't take that long. We went by a scenic route, and got there in 20 mins. We started off at the 'Forest of Pagodas' - aparently there are 200 small pagodas, each the tomb of some monk or abbot. The carvings were amazing, but as we had noticed at "Thousand Buddha Mountain" in Jinan, it was purely a tourist spot. The most recent pagoda was slightly different, with the pictures on the side depicting, rather than various monks engaged in kung fu, such 'traditional' things as a movie camera, a car, a train, etc.

Shaolin Temple area itself was very pretty, apart from the ogres guarding the main doors. An interesting mix of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confusion (so, what is the correct adjective?) things. There were a number of shrines in different buildings, with varying shapes of Buddhas, Guan Yings, and long-dead abbots. The thousands of tourists swarmming the place made it hard to see anything, but it was interesting watching them. Most of them were Chinese, but there were also some Americans (accent + t-shirts) and many Koreans. Watching the Chinese at the shrines, I noticed a bunch of girls laughing at one of their number who was waving incense and bowing, but then half a minute later, one of the loudest was doing it too. The general philosophy seems to be that you just never know, it might bring you luck.

We didn't see any performances, but there were a few monks in grey robes wandering around. At one of the temple/shrines, there were three windows - at one of which you could pray. The other two were given over to a different god - souvenir selling. Most of the monks we saw were well past the age of doing such feats as were advertised on the posters outside - such as balancing on your head while in a sitting postion.

We were kind of glad to come away - having taken about 60 photos on the digital camera for various martial art-studying friends. Greg had developed a cold, thanks to someone on the bus to ZhengZhou. We were taken back to town, and had lunch at a restaurant with our taxi driver, before heading back to the bus station, back to Zhengzhou, one night there, and another 8 hours on the bus back to ZZ, with the same bus and drivers as our outward bound journey. As usual, they were rather surprised that anyone would be heading back to Zaozhuang. The ride back, being in daylight, was a little more comfortable.

We then we had two days back home, with Greg sick, and me getting sick, and got on the bus to Jinan.

We're now teaching 30 hours a week for our holiday job, finding it 'interesting' teaching kids, and sleeping on the weekend. Lots more white people here - kind of good, but more noisy to live with. I guess we'll survive the 6 more weeks we have, but I'm not sure we're enjoying that much. Big city is interesting - more shops. We bought butter, and ate bread and butter for the first time in 3 months. I miss butter.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Madness - utter madness, has been the prevailing theme of the past week or so. Starting with the exams and re-sits - as my other-half described so well. By the way, it looks as if he might have succumbed to the LJ idea.

I gained much amusement from the various excuses that students came up with. Such as being drunk during the second exam. Or that they had left their glasses behind, and so couldn't read the question clearly. Or that they mis-spelled so many words because they are short-sighted (quite a good one I thought!).

Visiting
Last week, we were preparing to go out for our Chinese lesson, when there was a knock at the door. Our down-stairs neighbor, heavily pregnant and due in a week or so, came in, indicating that she wanted to sit in the cool air of our apartment. Fair enough, it was horribly hot (please note any kind of invective carefully expunged). So we sat and talked to her for half an hour. Or rather she talked, Greg replied, and I listened, and understood one word in ten. But it was much more fun and useful than our lesson. Then she invited us down to her apartment, where we met a man who I guess was her husband, and watched TV, and made various remarks about NZ - where it is, and what it's like there.

Weather
The weather has been very hot recently. Thanks to the wonderful invention of airconditioning, our place stays at about 25 degrees, but outside it is in the mid to high thirties. And muggy. As in, when you go outside the wet heat hits you on the back of your head and runs off with your brain.

The heat made for some very interesting storms at the beginning of last week. Some time between 10 and 12 at night, out of now-where, a huge wind would spring up. It was accompanied by a lot of lightening, but not thunder - probably lots in the upper reaches. And just as suddenly, about an hour later, it stopped. The wind was so strong that it blew out a few windows in the apartment blocks, but fortunately none of ours. I was very glad we weren't on the top floor, for fear of the solid concrete roof blowing off.

Birthdays
Tuesday was our birthday. We marked it by going downtown for 'Dicos' (kind of a cross between KFC and BK, with some rice and noddle dishes thrown in on the side), followed by buying Greg (excitement!) a pair of trousers, and me some more fish and fish paraphernalia. So I now have a nice bowl of 9 little bright-coloured fish, two spiny catfish and one pagoda. Very nice to look at.

Once we arrived home, we kept having people stop by. We hadn't told too many people about our birthday, but the American teacher brought us a cake, and one of the students gave us an ornament in the shape of two old people in a boat, with writing on the side along the lines of growing old together in the same boat. Turns out it's a money bank, so we can start saving for our retirement. Another student gave us each a jade necklace. Mine was a cross, while Greg's was a buddha. Hmm, I wonder what he thinks of us.

However, our rather impromtu 'birthday party' kept being disturbed by people wanting to know if they had passed the exams, and if not whether they could sit them again. This continued yesterday as well. I feel very sorry for the students who failed, but I cannot square it with my conscience to pass students who cannot speak English.

Food
These last two days have been made memorable by two banquets. Yesterday's was a farewell meal for Barbara, the American teacher. She has been here in Zaozhuang on and off for 4 years, but this time she's going home for good. Before you start building a picture of her, the reason she's going home is that she wants to see more of her grandchildren. Then, she is 70 years old, about 5'5, but a total live-wire. Greg and I struggle to keep up with her.

The food at that banquet was all good. Today, Barbara took us to a neighbouring town, where one of her ex-students works, teaching in a middle-school (read intermediate, for Kiwis). After a brief run through the school we got down to the really important part of the visit. And again it was mostly all good. They have a really nice thing they do with cold roast beef, and there were beans in garlic with peanut sauce, shrimp, duck, chicken, etc. However, there was one dish I chickened out on. I guess I'd fail Fear Factor. Roasted cicadas. Greg was much braver, and had two. Claims they taste like shrimp flavoured, badly-bbq-ed sausages. Still was not game enough to try. And he doesn't like sausages - but he took a second one! I admire him greatly, but was not lead to emulate.

Well, that's definitely enough of a ramble. Stay tuned for dentists and hairdressers in China - coming up after the break (i.e. when I next have enough energy to log on.
zcat_abroad: (Default)
Some 31 (of 200) students having failed the writing exam, one of those who did not fail begged us to give the others a second chance. So we did. 15 passed, 2 never showed up, and 1 cheated. Afterwards, one of those who had failed twice came to see us, asking for yet another chance.

The resit was allowed because it was one of our friends who asked for it, and because she was not asking for herself. The second resit was declined, in part because it was a self-interested request and in part because I was seething about the cheater(*).

There was another factor, however, and I realised this when I was refusing the request. Some students must fail. This is simply because of the fact that the value of the final degree depends upon the difficulty of obtaining such a degree.

If anyone can do it, then nothing is proven by the mere fact that you have done it. The degree is worthless. In China, gaining admission to a university is extremely difficult. Passing the degree, on the other hand, is easy. This is why so many Chinese go to NZ et al. to go to university; they want degrees that people in other countries will care about.

(*): the cheater. They all look the same to us, right? Anyway, so thought one of those who failed the first test. We saw in the exam room someone we had never seen before, so we thought to compare handwriting samples with the first test. This guy's didn't match. When we talked to the head teacher of that class, we found out that the name actually belonged to a girl (some Chinese names are not gender-specific). The student was subsequently caught cheating in another exam and will be expelled. For some reason, that gives me a warm, tingly feeling.

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